Wednesday, 12 May 2010

More Of A Dilemma Than We Might Want To Admit

Christopher Hitchens has done what he likes to do best - speak his mind.

This time, he's talking about Nicolas Sarkozy's pipe dream of banning the Burqa.

This is an issue that divides just about anyone - it divides feminists, it divides atheists, it divides muslims, it divides christians. It seems you can pick any group, usually cohesive, and find the very well-defined split running through it. People tend to know instantly which side of the debate they are on, too. I imagine anyone reading this has already made up their mind as to whether the idea of a burqa ban is a good or a bad thing.

It seems to me we need to ask a pivotal question: is banning a tool of oppression itself an act of oppression?

It is not as cut and dry as saying that banning the burqa infringes personal choice. Some women, it is true, don the veil as a matter of free will.  These are the privelleged few, however, and have never faced an altenative of disfigurement and violence should they refuse. Wearing the burqa is never a feminist decision - it is always, in all cases, a patriarchal one. To deny that is to do all those women who have no choice a very, very grave injustice.

Now, consider the other, very practical arguments against the burqa ban.

'It will create a great deal of animosity between the west and Islam'
'Women who cannot wear the veil in public will be kept indoors by their Islamic husbands'
'You risk violence against those women who choose to cast off their veil against their family wishes'

And note that every single one of these boils down to one central theme:

'If you ban the burqa, someone's gonna get hurt.'

It's my opinion that the French government, and the rest of us, ought to be railing against that kind of bullying than bowing down to it.

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